The good, the bad, and the ugly of the Union Budget will continue to be discussed for weeks to come, but what lends it uniqueness is the Gandhian flavour that the Modi government imparted to it, quite in order with the 150th anniversary of the Mahatma.
Modi government's intent to position Gandhi and his philosophy as central to its governance can be judged from the reference made by Chief Economic Advisor Krishnamurthy Subramanian on Thursday, while presenting the Economic Survey of India.
#EcoSurvey2019 is inspired by Gandhiji's Talisman: “…Recall the face of the poorest man [woman], and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her],” Subramanian said on his Twitter handle.
Likewise, on Friday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman too in her maiden Budget presentation reiterated the government's commitment to emulate Gandhian principles in governance. "The 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi is an apt occasion for us to re-dedicate ourselves to his ideals. Hon'ble Prime Minister took the Sankalp of achieving Gandhiji's resolve of Swachh Bharat to make India Open Defecation Free by 2nd October 2019. I am very satisfied and happy to report that this would be achieved by the 2nd October. To mark this occasion, the Rashtriya Swachhta Kendra will be inaugurated at Gandhi Darshan, Rajghat on 2nd October."
But a deeper look at the Budget document and the government's policies in the past, shows that the Modi government walks the talk in assimilating Gandhi's views and principles in governance.
Gandhi had always emphasised on cleanliness and at his ashram by the river Sabarmati, it was mandatory for all residents to clean the toilets. Modi's Swachh Bharat programme, a pan-India mission to promote cleanliness and make India open defecation free, was inspired by this idea. In Budget 2019, the finance minister took it a step further and announced that the government is setting up a Rashtriya Swachhta Kendra at Raj Ghat in New Delhi to monitor the progress of Swachh Bharat Mission.
Sitharaman also announced that in order to sensitise the youth and society about the "positive Gandhian values", a Gandhipedia is being developed by the National Council for Science Museum.
The ‘Gandhipedia’, as the name suggests, will be similar to free online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, to provide complete information about Gandhi on a single platform.
The government had launched a new web portal ‘Gandhi 150’ (Gandhi.gov.in) in September 2018 to provide people free access to an online repository of Gandhian literature, audios, and videos related to Father of the Nation. The portal has been linked to Gandhipedia, where one gets to read online the collected works of Mahatma Gandhi.
Sitharaman also invoked Gandhi just before she touched upon the provisions for Gramin Bharat (rural India), in her Budget speech. She dedicated an entire section to Grameen Bharat and to rural economy – as conceived by Gandhi.
Gandhi had famously summed up India stating that its soul lived in its villages. Sitharaman repeated those words in her budget speech and said, "This year even as we are marking the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, I submit that our Government keeps Antyodaya ( uplifting of the weakest section of the society) at the core of all its efforts. At the centre of everything we do, we keep gaon, garib aur kisan (village, poor and farmer).”
Considering the fact that majority of people still live in villages and depend on agriculture and traditional industries, the budget announced increasing the number of Common Facility Centers (CFCs) currently functional to make traditional industries more productive, profitable and capable for generating sustained employment opportunities. The sectors which will receive key focus include bamboo, honey and Khadi. Needless to say, khadi played a pivotal role in Gandhi’s life and in India’s freedom struggle.
Gandhi had emphasized on self-sustained model of economic development for rural India. Sitharaman emulated the same in her Budget by providing for building infrastructure to provide market reach and profitability for farmers.
"We also hope to form 10,000 new Farmer Producer Organisations, to ensure economies of scale for farmers over the next five years,” the finance minister announced, while emphasizing on improving farmers' income. The FPO's are expected to play a crucial role in ensuring improved bargaining power for farmers while purchasing inputs and during selling their harvest.
Women empowerment was also an inseparable part of Gandhian philosophy. In a letter to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur from Wardha on 21 October, 1936 Gandhi wrote, "If you women would only realize your dignity and privilege, and make full use of it for mankind, you will make it much better than it is."
Mentioning in her speech ‘Naari tu Narayani’ (woman as goddess), Sitharaman announced measures to empower women through self-help groups. "In India's growth story, particularly in the rural economy, the role of women is a golden story," the finance minister added.
As part of the BJP's Mahatma Gandhi outreach, BJP president Amit Shah said in Ahmedabad on Thursday that party workers would take out padyatras across the country to spread the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi as part of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations. The effort to push for a symbolic connection to Gandhi should not be missed as 'appropriation' of Gandhi by the saffron party.
Instead of mere lip service, the Budget 2019 indicates government’s serious intent to bring Gandhi’s basic principles into governance in this fiscal year, when the nation would be celebrating Mahatma’s 150 year anniversary.
Updated Date: Jul 06, 2019 15:20:57 IST